Nailing your nutrition is extremely difficult, because every day your body’s demands are slightly different. Often times we leave a race feeling like our nutrition plan that worked in training let us down on race day. Did it really let you down, or did you not adapt to the day?
If you break it down, using the same nutrition plan for every workout is like eating the exact same thing every day. Somedays your body loves a diet of Captain Crunch, mayonnaise sandwiches, and hot dogs but eventually your body says, “I feel like shit, I need something different.” This is where things like Lucky Charms, Nutella sandwiches, and pizza start to sound good. You get the idea here, using the same nutrition all the time is not only boring, but just not realistic. Chicken Noodle soup is great in the winter but not your first choice during the summer. You have to answer your body’s cravings if you want it to perform at the top level…or I can go off on a tangent talking about rejetting an engine based on humidity, elevation, temperature…but I will spare you.
None of what I am about to talk about mattered until I did races that lasted longer than 2 hours. When racing short races I can hardly remember where the words GI or nutritional melt down were discussed. It was more about physical and mental breakdowns or just not having it on the day, but when I started to train for longer races I quickly learned a lot.
The first is that there are many misconceptions about nutrition. Many think when it is a cold they need to drink less, this may be true, but you still need to get those calories in your body. In fact you actually need to get more calories because your body actually burns more calories because it heats the core temperature to stay warm. The perception of when it gets hot you need to drink more because you sweat more is true. In addition most know that you cannot just drink water, but you need to get more electrolytes, yes, this is true. To most that means more Gatorade, Perform, or whatever is on course and yes this does get you electrolytes and keeps you hydrated, but it also overloads your gut with loads of extra calories. What most people don’t realize is that your body sweat rate is the highest on windy days where the convection of the wind sweeps the sweat, which is your body’s coolant, back into the atmosphere.
To say the least being able to identify what your body needs greatly effects being able to perform at peak capacity on race day. If you can go next level and know what your body does and needs in each weather condition, well some just call that unfair…I just say, knowledge is power.
It took me 4 years of training and racing at the longer distances, races over 2 hours, to have any success. At first I was just trying anything and everything and sometimes I would have succuess and other times it plain would not work. Finally I pulled out my engineering and Six Sigma hats and said let’s do this right, this is just a numbers game. I identified 10 factors that I felt were important in addition to the volume of fluid consumed.
Below I included a workout that I did last year in which I did not balance my calorie load very well. With the weather I was concerned about sodium intake and I did a solid job of balancing that which is likely why I was able to get off the bike and do a good brick run off the long ride.
If you are struggling to get a solid grip on your nutrition, I would advise building an archive of your nutritional intake during your longer workouts. For me this shortens the time for head scratching and gives you concrete numbers to review and make modifications for your next workout. This is why I have fallen in love with the Base Performance products because I can make little tweaks to my potion every day based on how my body feels and the weather outside.
Let’s face it, you need to be ready for everything, I have seen it rain in the desert (IM AZ 15), go from 105 (41C) real feel to 65 (18C) degrees in 5 minutes (IM TX 16), got out of water to 40 degree (5C) air temp (Rev3 Quassy 11), burned my feet on the pavement dismounting the bike (Abu Dhabi 11), then there are the days where the weather is perfect (Challenge Roth 15). I have archived a lot of workouts and come race day, I look at the weather and execute, making small changes along the way to keep the engine running at peak performance as my legs scream for mercy.
Fighting to Win and Punish,